Appeal for urgent action to rewild Sussex golfcourses
Campaigners are calling on the people of Sussex to ‘rise up and take action’ to protect 300 acres of former Downland before it is too late.
The Brighton Downs Alliance is made up of concerned conservation and community groups who want to see Hollingbury and Waterhall golf courses restored into a ‘People’s Downland’ when their leases expire in March 2020.
The Alliance, which includes the Countryside Charity: CPRE Sussex; South Downs Society and the Sussex Wildlife Trust, says this is a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ to restore the rare grasslands and to address Climate Change. The sites are owned by Brighton & Hove City Council, which is meeting next month (21 November 2019) to decide their future. The Alliance is worried the land could be signed over to unsympathetic private bidders.
‘We have an opportunity to recover the lost, internationally rare archaic chalk grassland and its biodiverse ancient woody scrub,’ says CPRE Sussex Director, Kia Trainor. ‘This is a chance to reconnect people to farming on our public downland and address damaging climate change and our declining biodiversity through sensitive and sympathetic management of our public land’.
The group wants to see both sites restored to traditionally grazed sheep pasture to bring back the rich chalk flora and fauna, with a dedicated sympathetic shepherd or farmer. There would also be an opportunity for community agriculture, with local food supply chain, linking the land to the people, providing education, enjoyment and environmental enhancement.
‘We are urging the Council to be open and to listen to its people,’ says the Sussex Wildlife Trust’s Conservation Policy Advisor, Phil Belden. ‘We have to show the council, who should be the custodians of this land, that we care.
‘In the past, the council has resisted attempts to reform damaging land management on the Downs Estate – They have a duty to care, not release this failing golf course land to the mercies of commercial private business with its eyes purely on profit’.
‘There is much more at stake here – our precious wildlife, public access and our urgent need to address the climate crisis.’
Brighton Downs Alliance Members include: Beacon Hub, Rottingdean; Brighton & Hove Archaeological Society; Brighton & Hove Food Partnership; Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth; Brighton & Hove Wildlife Forum; Butterfly Conservation Sussex Branch; Coldean Community Organisation; Campaign to Protect Rural England Sussex; Friends of Hollingbury & Burstead Woods; Friends of Hollingdean Park; Friends of Waterhall; Friends of Whitehawk Hill, Keep Our Downs Public; Keep the Ridge Green; Moulsecoomb Forest Garden & Wildlife Project; Neil Ravenscroft Royal Agricultural University; South Downs Society; Sussex Bat Group; Sussex Socialist Environment & Resources Association: Sussex Wildlife Trust; Wild Flower Conservation Society – Brighton & Beyond